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ISSUE 120 VOL 3 PUBLISHED 10/6/2006

Holdups delay Boe renovations

By Lauren Radomski
Variety Editor

Friday, October 6, 2006

Due to a series of delays, Boe Chapel’s new organ will not be completed by early November as planners had hoped. The goal was to have organ work finished by the week of Founder’s Day, with a celebration of the chapel and organ on Nov. 11.

"It just became more apparent over the last two weeks that this was probably pushing too hard," said John Ferguson, the Elliot and Klara Stockdal Johnson professor of organ and church music.

The delay in the project stems from a number of smaller holdups. According to Ferguson, only a handful of companies around the country supply large organ pipes. The Holtkamp Organ Company, Boe’s organ builder, relies on one of these suppliers. The group is among the best in the business but is notoriously late.

While builders planned for some delay, "The supplier ended up being one month more behind than ever before," Ferguson said. Thus the first semi-load of the organ, scheduled for delivery Aug. 21, did not arrive until mid-September.

Another holdup involved transporting the organ casework. The delicate wood panels that will surround the new organ required careful transportation if they were to reach St. Olaf without chipping or cracking. To ensure a safer journey, Holtkamp created cradles for the casework in the company’s semi-trucks. Despite its benefits, cradle construction constituted an additional delay.

"So all of these kinds of things add a little time," Ferguson said. He said the hardest part of the process has been the ongoing uncertainty from week to week.

The organ is one of several new features in Boe Chapel. According to Pete Sandberg, assistant vice president for facilities, planning for the renovation began about three years ago.

Changes to the chapel include remodeling of the chancel ceiling, columns along the sides of the room, built-in choir risers at the front and a platform for the altar table which extends into the congregation. The chapel will also receive new pews, flooring and hymn books.

Of particular relevance to the new organ is the chapel’s improved acoustics.

"People think the acoustics work better than we even hoped," said Sandberg. Worship is "just a totally different experience." Sandberg said the chapel was in need of more vertical wall space if the acoustics were to be improved. Builders created heavy soffits, wood reinforcements, along the sides of the room to return sound and hide ductwork.

Ferguson said the next delivery of organ parts is scheduled for Oct. 9, with the last load arriving on Oct. 16. The organ will include over 4,000 pipes, some as tall as 30 feet.

Ferguson described each pipe as an individual instrument. Each one requires precise tuning to the design of the chapel, something that cannot be done in a factory. Ferguson estimated that the organ will be completed by December, but stressed that this is subject to change.

Despite the delay, Ferguson said he has "not heard a lot of grumbling" among students, faculty or staff.

"I’ve been really impressed with the reaction of the St. Olaf community," he said.

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